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Catfish


I do not claim to be an expert nor do I guarantee the accuracy of the information. Every year there seem to be major changes in catfishing patterns.

 Outlined below are a few basic techniques that have been proven to catch catfish.
 Keep in mind that these techniques are not set in stone. 
Because a method works one day, it does not necessarily mean that the same method will work the next day. Also keep in mind that specific techniques are used for the specific waters that are fished on a regular basis. Different techniques and different baiting mixtures will need to be formulated for your specific target.
Experimental minds always catch more catfish!

1. Fish early. Fish can be caught in the evening at dusk, but dawn is better. Get started when there is just enough light to see what you are doing. In the summer months - 5:30 to 8:30 AM is the best time of the day to fish.

2. Chum. Catfish love a meal of grain. If you chum and fish at the same place at the same time each day, there will be plenty of catfish at your fishing hole.

Try sour milo, which has a pretty strong odor. Soak milo in water for several days. Use 5 gallon buckets with a tight fitting lid.

3. Tie a rig with a weight about 10 inches above a treble hook.

5. Keep a tight line with the weight just off the bottom and hold your rod in your hand with a finger on the line. You don't get a second chance, so you have to be ready to set the hook. Many fish are very skilled at taking the bait off the hook and some bites are gentle enough that you will never detect it, yet alone react fast enough, if your rod is not in your hand.

Two rods in rod holders won't catch as many fish as one rod in your hand.

CATFISH TACKLE

Let's start with what kind of tackle to use.

Every pro, just as every fisherman, has different combinations of tackle that they choose.

The best advice I can give is
 KEEP IT SIMPLE!
More attention should be devoted to the bait you use to attract the fish,
rather than the tackle used to bring the fish in.

 

There is a vast variety of fishing tackle used for catfishing, from light spin-cast rigs to high quality salmon mooching and steelhead outfits. Just about any rod and reel will work for pan-sized catfish up to 2 pounds or so (under or about 18 inches) as long as a good quality line of at least 8 pound test is used.

A good choice would be braided lines like SpiderWire, because of their sensitivity. The lighter tackle allows more of the battle between man and fish that has so exemplified the sport.
Even a small fish can put up a whale of a fight on this type of tackle.

When fishing for the larger channel catfish and even white cats, sturdier tackle is in order especially when fishing in heavy cover. A ten pound plus catfish can give you a devil of a time around any kind of structure. Most catmen use medium heavy spinning outfits with at least 17 pound test quality monofilament line when fishing around trees, rocks or pilings. Rod lengths vary from 7 to 10 feet in length. The longer the rod, the better the casting distance and control while fighting the fish. A high quality spinning reel with a good drag system is a must to handle the long sizzling runs of an angry channel cat.

When drift fishing in open water almost any kind of tackle will do the job. The majority of anglers use light steelhead or medium salt water gear. Many anglers prefer conventional reels over spinning for this purpose.

A good choice is a 7 foot light action spinning outfit with 8 or 10 pound super braid line such as Berkely Fireline.

 Since your normally fishing in totally open water when drift fishing, your best choice is simply whatever outfit you will have the most fun with.

During the spring and summer months quite a few anglers fish off the bank and off docks especially at night. A lot of them prefer surf-casting outfits as long as 12 feet or more. The reason behind this is more casting distance. A good system is to cast as far as possible and move the bait a few feet every five minutes or so. This system covers a lot more water and the occasional movement stirs up the bottom and hopefully wakes up a catfish.
Another plus for this method is, unlike waiting for a bell to ring, it keeps you awake.

For The Record

Expensive equipment is not a requirement for enjoyable fishing. In fact my favorite spinning pole's total cost with Spiderwire was around $30. Expensive rods and reels are not as vital to the fish catching experience as one would think.

Now I am not saying that you should not purchase fishing tackle from reliable brands, nor am I saying that these super poles do not have their place.
I am saying, however, for the beginner or intermediate, the benefits given by a "break the bank" pole are minimal and definitely not worth the price. For example, reliable brands that are inexpensive  include Quantum, Berkley and Shakespeare Ugly Stiks.


HOOKS

On the topic of tackle, it is a good time to stress one of the most underrated links in the chain to catching a fish.

 More important than new space age fiber lines and $200 fishing poles are the sharp hooks that actually catch the fish. Too many fishermen overlook the benefits and necessities of an extremely sharp hook. Catfish are very strong and can easily throw a hook that is not implanted deeply into their mouths. With a dull hook, there is no guarantee that the hook will penetrate deeply enough to ensure that it will remain there.
So to save much frustration, put off buying that new state of the art rod, and spend another dollar for premium hooks. With a little upkeep, using a wet stone to re-sharpen and protecting them from rust, they should last forever.

2/0 eagle claw bait holder hooks are hard to beat catching catfish on rod & reel. They seldom miss a good strike from a catfish and if you keep them sharp they'll almost set themselves.

Why such a small hook?
Basically so that you can use a small bait and they bite better if you haven't got a pound of metal sticking out of the bait, they hook better also.

Loading the hook up with humungous amounts of bait or very large cut bait will catch you more turtles or unwanted strikes by gar or some other non-target fish. In certain areas it's best to use large bait but in some areas it's useless and it affects casting.
Casting large bait with surf rods defeats the purpose.

One inch long by 1/4 inch wide strips of shad or some other cut bait if they weren't biting on shad. Grasshoppers are most of the time the best bait you can use.

River Fishing

Two basic rules.

Use bait that is natural to the fish. Using store bought bait will just lead you to disappointment, that stuff is just a waste of  your hard earned money and you won't catch any fish but maybe one or two the whole day unless you use it in a farm pond where the fish are being fed regularly by the landowner.

It's always best to fish structure upstream from brush piles/log jams or rock ledges. Fishing in wide open areas is okay just as long as the water is rising from a recent rain.

Flathead Fishing

For Flathead catfish the best hooks are probably 6/0 or 7/0 straight trotline hooks using whole live perch hooked like you'd fish with minnows.
Insert the hook just behind the body cavity above the spine, they will stay alive for a long time, well until the first flathead comes along and nails them.
Suspended on rod & reel using weighted corks; use 2oz and 3oz weighted corks. The perch should be about 3.5 to 4 inches long. Crappie are great flathead bait also about the same size.
Check your state fishing regulations about using them though as they're a game fish themselves.

Where To Find Catfish

This is meant to serve only as a general guide for finding fish; patterns will vary slightly by water bodies and seasons, as well as water temperatures and time of the day.

Rivers and Creeks

Look for holes and changes in the bottom depth where swift water stops or starts and forms pools; look for the deepest parts of these pools. Rocks, trees, rip rap, brush piles and other structure around these holes often hold kitties. Look for breaks in currents where baitfish hold up, catfish lurk in these areas and wait for an easy prey to ambush. Undercuts in banks where creeks and rivers turn and bend are common catfish hideouts.

In swift waters channel cats will position themselves in spots to feed and rest - generally near structure that breaks the current. Focus your fishing efforts around such structures. Look for feeder creeks and changes in bottom depths that catfish may follow. Catfish love to follow paths on the bottom of the water and will often run smaller creek channels on the bottom to feed. Any place where two waters feed together is often prime spots.

For channel cats, fish shallow water during the spring and as the days heat up in the summer remember that they will often move to deeper water during the heat of the day, and return shallow at night. They typically will still hold to structure and changes in bottom depth.

Lakes

When fishing lakes; look for shallow waters that have access to deeper waters. Shallow waters with structures such as trees, brush piles and rocks and changes in bottom depth hold fish. Old creek channels, river channels, stock ponds, roads or train tracks are common paths that fish will follow to feed.

Submerged structure such as buildings and foundations harbor catfish also. They often cling to this underwater structure.

In spring fish will be feeding in this shallow water. As the weather warms up and we have very hot days move deeper during the day if you have no shallow water success, they will return shallow as the day cools.

Sloughs, creeks and channels feeding from the lakes that have good lots of submerged trees and structure are catfish havens. Fish along this structure especially along the edges where bottom depth changes.

Look for Cormorant roosts. You will usually find these roosts in flooded trees over water. Large groups of these birds roost after dark. If you are fishing during the day and the birds are gone, just look for trees over the water that are covered in white bird droppings. When you locate the roosts, be gentle in sliding your boat into position and slide in under the roosts. Be quiet because the kitties are likely feeding under these roosts and are easily spooked.
The roosts can usually be found from December to April.

Dam Tailraces

Tailraces of dams are excellent catfishing locations, especially when the dams are releasing water. This is where many of the people who fish monster flatheads fish. Fishing below dams you can use a large slip rig or 3 way rig with a heavy sinker and cast in between the gates where the water is not as swift or you can use a bobber style rig and let your bait drift.

These areas produce nice catches of all different kinds of fish when they are letting out water because the fish feed on the dead/shocked baitfish after it comes through the dam.

Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is good way to catfish if you have a boat. Every so often the fish are finicky, chumming is not successful and you just cannot seem to get on the fish. If you have a boat, drifting can work really well.

When drifting, you keep your bait of choice off the bottom. Using a bottom bouncer rig is the best option. You simply drift across the water in areas where you suspect would hold catfish which lets you bait cover large areas without you having to pickup and move spaces.

Many people freeze concoctions of ground up shad or shrimp in water and tie a rope through them which they suspend in the water for dirfting, this can help attract or "chum" for fish.

Drift fishing works very well in deep waters especially around dams or rocky areas. You have a tendency to get hung up a lot while drifting but using a bottom bouncer rig will help with this. The other option is to use a slip bobber rig and keep your bait 12-18 inches off the bottom.

Regardless of whether you are fishing a river, lake or pond pay close attention to where you are fishing. Watch your surroundings and pay attention to depth, structure and everything involved when you are successful. Remember these conditions for future trips; because these are the places that will typically hold the fish. Don't rely too much on electronics and learn to spot the catfish hideouts, and it will pay off in the end.

Catfishing By Seasons

 Spring

As the days get longer and the water starts to warm, the catfish start to feed. This is a slow process, a few catfish start showing up around docks in late March.

Sometime between the middle and the end of April they start to move shallow in greater numbers to feed on crawdads and other forage. This is when bobber fishing with crawdad tails and or shrimp start producing.

The month of May shows a slow but steady improvement. Although a lot of fish are feeding shallow by now, there are still a lot of fish taken drift fishing with live minnows in 20 feet or more of water.

By early June, the catfish are starting to think about reproducing and therefore arrive in shallow water in great numbers.

Summer

By early to mid June, depending on water temperature, the majority of the catfish population is in the spawning mode. Their favorite spawning areas are shallow (3 to 8 feet) rocky areas, areas with lots of sunken tires and brushy areas. They continue to feed on crawdads and various other forage throughout their spawning cycle. Bobber fishing with crawdads, shrimp, or in some cases nightcrawlers continues to be the best fishing method.

As the fish complete their spawning, the majority remain relatively shallow until late August. During July and early August there are a lot of fish taken in 8 to 12 feet of water by still fishing with shrimp or cut baits such as mackerel or shad. There are still a lot taken by bobber fishing in shallow water then also.

Late August to early September starts the migration back to deeper water. By the middle of September the drift fishing in 20 to 35 feet of water is in full swing. The top baits used are shrimp, mackerel and shad in that order.

Fall

Many anglers catch more nice channel catfish from early September to roughly the middle of November than during the rest of the year combined.

The fish school up in 20 to 35 feet of water under schools of bait fish (shad and silversides), waiting for injured or dying bait fish to fall to the bottom. This pattern remains steady until the heavy rains hit or the water temperature stays below 55 degrees for any length of time usually mid or late November.

As I mention in the summer section, the top method is drift fishing with shrimp, mackerel and or shad.

Winter

Late November to the middle of March, the toughest season for catfishing. Most of the fish are in deep water and are very inactive. When there is enough rain to start filling lakes with muddy run-off water, a few cats will feed wherever the muddy water flows into the lake. The best method for this scenario is to toss a line baited with a gob of garden worms into the moving water and let it drift. Occasional catfish are taken drift fishing in deep water or still fishing from shore or dock but they are few and far between.

Baits

  Some claim a Catfish's favorite bait would be a toss up between chicken livers or raw medium sized grocery store shrimp.
Both have are very successful baits.

Shrimp is very simple to set up
 The tail and skin of the shrimp should be peeled off and then the meat should be slid up a #6 baitholder hook.
The shrimp will stay on the hook until a catfish decides to take it off.

Shrimp or prawns as they are called in the fish markets are a perfect substitute for crawdads. Depending on the size of the shrimp and the desired size of the bait you can use them whole or cut them in half. You can use them with the shell on but most anglers remove the shell. Unlike the crawdads you can use shrimp in heavy current or for long vigorous casting or even drift fishing without fear of losing your bait. They can be purchased in most seafood sections of supermarkets either frozen or fresh.

They work best from spring to late fall just as the crawdads do.

Chicken liver is a little bit more complex to rig up

Alot of anglers have good luck with them. Several channel catfish weighing 20 pounds and more have fallen for chicken livers.
 One problem with them is keeping them on the hook.

 One technique requires pantyhose. Rip of a piece of chicken liver about the diameter of a quarter. Wrap it in a piece of pantyhose leaving a tag end, and then thread the tag end of the pantyhose through a treble hook.

Another technique involving chicken livers is to dry them in the sun. When the liver dries completely, it will be more than hard enough to stay on the hook.
The only disadvantage is that sun dried livers will not put out as much odor as runny livers, but the change is minimal.

Yet another method is to cover them with garlic salt and dry them in the sun for 3 or 4 hours they will toughen up quite a bit and the garlic salt seems to make the cats like them even better.

Other ideas sent in from fellow Anglers:

 
Wrap sewing thread around the livers to keep the catfish from stealing them.

Ron Brown from Asheville North Carolina

 

A detailed answer to the problem of keeping liver on the hook:

All you have to do is use a wire leader or a snap swivel and a #4 treble hook . . .
with the hook in hand, (not snapped into the swivel or leader) push the eye of the hook through a couple of solid pieces of chicken liver, then gently place the hook into the snap of the swivel or wire leader. Snap it shut and hold the hook by the eye, next wrap the liver with about 18-24 inches of everyday household cotton thread. The stuff your wife sews your buttons on with. Wrap the thread tightly around the liver so that it cuts into it a little bit, and I guarantee you cannot throw it off. I've been using the method forever and can't imagine doing it any other way.

You can even bring your liver in to check it and throw it back it out, it works that well. The only downside is after 2 or 3 bait ups you have to take a second to cut the accumulated thread off the hook with a knife.

It's easy, it takes no prep. work (throw a spool of thread in your tackle box) and it's environmentally friendly.

Kerry in Dallas Texas 

Another method of keeping liver baits on the hook:

The ultimate thing to use for wrapping liver baits on a hook is the wrapping inside of golfballs. It stretches and you can use a little or alot, personally I've caught many large catfish on 9/0 to 10/0 hooks with 3-4 chicken livers wrapped on. It's fantastic in waters with no current. Don't use any weight, big channels and blues can't resist it and you won't usually be bothered by smaller catfish. Big bait for big fish!

Tom Radovich from Union City CA

 

 These two baiting methods of chicken livers and shrimp have definitely been the most successful and they are still the most common ones used today.

    Other great choices of bait include

Crawdads - crawfish,

One of the primary food sources for catfish. At times live crawdads are excellent bait but more often the meat from the tail is the top producer.
Just remove the shell from the tail of the crawdad and place the white meat on the hook. Crawdad tails are best used still fishing with or without a bobber since they don't stay on the hook very well.

They produce the best results from spring to late fall when they are readily available to the catfish.

You can purchase crawdads at bait and tackle shops or you can catch your own with a crawdad trap.

Cut Bait

The word cut bait covers a wide variety of fish baits. The most common ones that are used are: shad, anchovy, sardines, mackerel and silverside minnows. Cut bait can be a fillet or a chunk; it depends on your preference. Use them primarily for drift fishing in deeper water since the cats are usually feeding on shad or silverside minnows when they go deep.

Shad & Skipjack

Sometimes in fast rushing water they're best fished whole. Sometimes they prefer just the heads. Sometimes the gizzard placed on the hook followed by a shad fillet. Sometimes just the shad fillet works.
Try them all, starting with shad heads then whole then with the gizzard or just the fillet. Keep it small when using fillets about
 1/4" to 1/2" x 1" long strips. 

Fresh water herring

This type of bait is great cut bait, sometimes better than shad.
Same rule applies,  keep the bait small.

Perch

Live perch are excellent for catching flathead.
Scaling them about half way up will give off a lot more scent. 

Crappie

Crappie is actually better than perch for catching flathead as this is their main food fish.

Worms

This category includes nightcrawlers, minicrawlers and garden worms.

They are highly productive in winter and early spring.
The optimal time to use worms is just after a good rain when the water is rising in the rivers. Seems like the flood along with the fresh influx of bait  - mostly worms, bugs, and vegetation triggers the catfish in rivers to go into some kind of feeding frenzy.

 It is best to use just enough weight to drift along the bottom in the current to provide a natural presentation.

Nightcrawlers and minicrawlers are available at all bait shops but garden worms must be dug up by the angler.

Live or Dead Minnows

Live minnows, especially large or extra large are good bait all year round. The only drawback (or maybe not) is that you will catch as many bass, or maybe more, as catfish. Most serious catmen kill their minnows just before they put them on the hook for this reason. They can be used under a bobber in shallow water in spring and summer as well as drift fishing in semi deep to deep water all year long.

Minnows are available at some baitshops.

 Grasshoppers
 locust in some areas

The big yellow ones are what were talking about. These are a seasonal bait but they're great. It is well known that blues and channel feed off vegetation, this is why grasshoppers are a favorite of catfish sometimes. Iit's not because they feed on them all the time, it's because of what the grasshoppers eat. Catfish are omnivores meaning they can't live off meat alone and eat plant and animal/fish. Because of this, there are a lot of places they can't feed as much off vegetation and while the grasshoppers fill up on plant stuff and become little bait packets.

Miscellaneous Baits

I truly believe that a catfish (especially a channel cat) will eat almost anything that is animal, vegetable or mineral.

Here is a partial list of stuff that many anglers have caught them on;
bread dough, salmon eggs, smoked salmon, corn, hot dogs, bologna, german bologna, salami, green peas, Berkely Power Bait Trout Paste, plastic worms and grubs, and even crank baits.
Hot dogs are a very good bait for catfish. Many fish in excess of 15 pounds have been taken with hot dogs.

Another good catfish bait that deserves a mention here is cheese, just about any kind of cheese will catch catfish but orange cheeses like cheddar or american work particularly well. As I already mentioned, many have caught a lot of cats with plain bread dough so I'm sure a prepared doughbait will do well. If you use your imagination I'm sure you can come up with a few new ones!

Good Luck!

Chumming
 Stink Baits/Dough Baits

Chumming is a very simple method that will reap major benefits. A fisherman who chums his or her area before fishing will always catch more catfish than the person who doesn't. Chumming simply consists of throwing balls of a mixture of specific recipe into the area that is to be fished.
 Then you fish like normal.
The chum will attract many more catfish to this area. It should be clear that the chum in the lake will need to be replenished occasionally which entails tossing more balls of mixture into the lake. Usually catching a catfish in a chummed area will not spook other fish in the area because they are feeding so heavily.

The trick to this method is finding the right recipe for the mixture. Clearly it should contain the same bait that it is to be used on the hook.

Such recipes are not easily revealed and the method I suggest to find your personnel mixture is trial and error. Every lake is different, so the contents of mixtures will vary. Once the correct mixture is found, the fish frier will be cooking constantly. As a starting point, something that smells a great deal is what people normally use to catch catfish. Usually putting this reeking substance into a pasty mixture of flour and water is a good starting point.

Good luck 
and
I would love to hear your experiences.

Catfish Recipes
 has earned it's own page
with the multitudes of recipes out there . . . 

Most breeds of catfish are opportunistic when they are young, feeding on almost anything they can. As catfish grow older, however, their tastes begin to mature and they will feed almost exclusively on other fish, living or dead. Therefore the most effective baits for older catfish are shrimp, cut bait, minnows, and panfish
(Cut bait consists of slices of a dead fish's muscle from behind the gills).
These are definitely the cheapest baits to acquire.

 Find a spot on the body of water that seems to attract many minnows or sunfish
(usually shining a flashlight into the lake at night will entice many baitfish to the surface),
and use a throw net to catch them.
Use these fish as your bait.

 

   The most effective baits are those that nature produced.
 I mean, which would you rather eat: Shrimp or man-made dough bait? So when the doughbaits and pastes aren't working, go with shrimp, chicken livers, or any other natural bait to increase your catch.
Another good idea: When fishing in the same location of a lake or river, rotate the bait periodically so as not to condition the fish's taste. This will allow a more dynamic selection of baits to choose from on any one occasion.

This list will remain the same unless some bait company pays me big money to lie to you and endorse their fancy store bought bait like "Goober's Catfish Catchin Crap"

Water Conditions

Water temperature and other things play a big part in how you catch catfish also,
for instance,
if the body of water your fishing in is only 12 to 18 feet deep and the water isn't moving much at all and it's the hot part of the summer,
forget about fishing on bottom as the oxygen level will be really low and there won't be many or any for that matter, feeding off bottom.
The fish will be suspended or even close to the top of the water so that they can breath, therefore you'll have to suspend your bait, maybe even as shallow as 1 foot deep from a bobber.

 

Rigging Methods

    TIGHTLINING is a method that allows the fisherman to accurately control the lake floor to bait distance. The rig for this method is as follows:
Loop a baitholder (hook size is dependent on the size of the bait) or a treble hook (depending on the bait used) onto the line a "preferred distance" from the end. Then tie a weight on to the end of the line (weight size depends on the current i.e. use a weight that will allow the rig to remain stationary in the water.)
Movement of the bait is not required and is often undesirable. Then using split shot, peg the hook the "preferred distance" above the weight. Experimentation will determine the "preferred distance" but a good starting point is about 18" to 24." This rig is productive when the foliage on the bottom of the lake may interfere with the catfish's attraction to the bait.

NOTE: It is very important to keep the line taught since many strikes, especially from big'uns are subtle.

    The SLIPWEIGHT method allows the bait to rest on the lake floor. This method is recommended when fishing at night in shallow waters.
(You do know that catfish tend to come in closer to shore to feed at night, right?)
The first step in setting up a slip weight rig is to slide a weight onto the line. It does not matter which type of weight, as long as it can slide along the line. Again water conditions and current will determine the weight of the sinker. Then pinch a split shot a "preferred distance" from the bottom of the line. Again experimentation will determine the optimal length of leader but again 18 to 24 inches is a good starting point. Finally tie the required hook on the end with a palomar knot. This now offers almost 100 percent strength and is easy to tie even at night. This slipweight method allows the sinker to translate along the fishing line. This movement will effectively mask the weight to a striking catfish. Basically it will not feel the weight, and will not realize that the bait is fake until it is too late.

    The MULTIBAIT style is another great method for catching great amounts of catfish. This method is notorious for catching more than one catfish at a time. Preparing this rig is very simple. Splice a three way swivel onto your line and tie a leader of about 18" to 24" on each of the other swivels. Then tie on the required hook. I usually rely on the weight of the bait to sink the rig. And that's it.
 With this method determination of the best bait is possible by simply placing different bait onto each hook and seeing which one draws more strikes. The ease and forgiveness of this rig plus the possibility of catching two or more catfish at the same time make this technique a great choice for the beginner and advanced catfisherman.

 

Removing a Catfish from the Hook

There are a few ways to remove a catfish.
When we were kids stepping on their heads and simply cutting the line or wrenching the hook out of the poor catfish's mouth was the easiest way. The catfish never seemed to enjoy this, but we were kids, what did we know?
 Now, our society and our conscience frown upon such primitive measures.
Stepping on its head could also easily break a catfish's jaws thereby making them useless as a game fish as well as handicapping them in their environment.

The simplest way to remove a hook without harming the fish is to carefully slide your hand up its belly from the tail placing the fingers behind one side fin and the thumb behind the other.
Try not to stick yourself with the fins.
The deadly poison will get'cha! 
Make sure your grip is secure and remove the hook with only the required force by pliers.

If you having any hints, suggestions, techniques or anything that you would like to share or have me put onto this web page,
please feel free to Email me.


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If you havie any hints, suggestions, techniques or anything that you would like to share or have me put onto this web page,
please feel free to Email me

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